Online Program

Emergency preparedness in school districts: Findings from a national survey

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Melissa M. Kelley, MS, School of Public Health, Community Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Kaitlin O'Keefe, MPH, UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Katharine Arrington, MPH, UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Michael Prelip, MPH, DPA, Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Kimberley Shoaf, DrPH, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Significance: Schools have the ability to play a key role in mitigating, responding to, and recovering from emergencies and disasters. Thus, it is important to understand their current state of readiness.

Purpose: This analysis describes the experience of U.S. school districts with emergency response, and their current level of emergency preparedness.

Methods: Data are from a multi-stage, stratified random sample of 750 health departments, school districts, and schools. Respondents were recruited via a mailed invitation, and responses were collected with an online questionnaire. Data presented here are responses from 78 school districts.

Results: Of the school districts reporting a disaster experiences in the past three years, the most frequently mentioned disaster types were extreme heat (69%), extreme cold (68%), severe storms (68%), infectious disease outbreaks (60%) and flooding (51%). School districts were least likely to experience a volcano (0%), nuclear incident (0%), riot/civil unrest (1%), terrorism (4%), or an earthquake (5.3%) in the past three years. While school districts thought it as extremely important to engage on emergency preparedness activities (mean=4.5/5), only 48% had received assistance with response/training, 46% with emergency plans, 39% with drills/exercises, and 31% with obtaining equipment/supplies. Even with a lack of assistance, school districts gave an average preparedness rating of 4.01/5 for themselves and 3.89/5 for schools they represent.

Conclusion: These results help us understand the types of disaster experiences and emergency preparedness activities school districts have participated in, which can be used to identify priorities for improving readiness and response in the future.

Learning Areas:

Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
List the types of emergencies and disasters U.S. school districts have experienced in the past three years. Describe the current state of school districts’ emergency preparedness. Discuss the implications of these findings for improving emergency preparedness in schools and school districts.

Keyword(s): Emergency, School Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: With my colleagues, I have worked on the concept and analysis for this project, and prepared the conference presentation. I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at California State University, Northridge. During my doctoral studies at UCLA, I worked as a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters on assessing preparedness levels and improving collaboration within schools and public health departments.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.